This article was written by Elizabeth Hanks, a regular contributor to East Greenwich Patch.
bombings at the 117th Boston Marathon physically and mentally scarred
people across the United States and elsewhere; yet while many tended to their
injuries, attempted to rationalize their visions and held close their loved
ones, East Greenwich High School alum Jake Torrey turned to music.
His song, “What About the Others, ” mirrors what he and others experienced that day: “The way the pavement speaks to us / Says we need to get away soon / Before the cannons fire off / Sirens scream the windows break through,” he says in the first few lines.
Torrey’s memories are vivid as he continues to reflect back on the day when bombs went off right before him and he was forced to make sense of it all.
“I was just sitting in my apartment and I think it was the day after,” he paused. “I was just sitting there because we weren’t allowed out of our rooms, and I just started thinking, ‘That could’ve been me.’ I could’ve been standing where that kid was and I could’ve died and I could’ve had a piece of glass through my face and I could’ve lost my legs. But I didn’t and that’s where the phrase ‘what about the others’ came from,” he said.
When the Boston bombing occurred, Torrey turned to what he knew most: music. He kept focusing on the victims, asking himself, “What did I do that saved me and what did they do that didn’t?” He began to write his thoughts on paper and with the help of a melody replaying in his head, he wrote the lyrics to a song in the course of 10 minutes.
The song has been on YouTube since July 7 and has since received over 1,200 views. “I just put two and two together. I showed it to one of my friends and he said he really liked it,” he said. Torrey even performed the song with a friend for his English final – not surprisingly, he passed.
Torrey was across the street on Boylston when the first bomb went off – he was right in the middle of all the chaos. He was spending the day with a few friends from Berklee – it was the end of his first semester – he hesitated to say that Berklee is also located on Boylston. He was walking with his friends when suddenly the day dramatically changed.
“I was with a bunch of my friends and we were just walking there, walking along the sidewalk trying to get to the finish line,” he said.
Like many, Torrey and four other friends were making their way to the screaming fans and fatigued runners, only to be stopped by a “VIP Personnel Only” area. They stood there waiting for their friends to catch up, with the walls of an alleyway sandwiched around them. Then they heard the first explosion – a deafening bang that shocked them frozen.
“We were like a hundred feet away,” he said. “Everybody just stopped, there was nothing.” The street was filled with a momentary silence and confusion set in.
“We all thought it was fireworks, or a gunshot. I was like, ‘What was that? Did someone just celebrate crossing the finish line with a firework?’ And then you could see the smoke coming out and the flags were busted and down,” he said.
Before Torrey could begin to understand, the second bomb went off and people began to run. There was smoke filling the air and people falling to their knees, with the sounds of celebration quickly masked by piercing screams that echoed the streets.
“When the second bomb went off everyone just started screaming and running. I was in the alley so I just ducked and ran in the opposite direction. It was really scary,” he said. He paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “I mean I wasn’t scared, I was just in shock and I was just like, ‘I gotta run, everybody’s running, I gotta run,’” he said.
Torrey’s memories seemed imprinted in his mind, the details unfolding as if they were happening as he spoke. He described the streets of Boston as being clogged, while people attempted to run to simply get away from the madness.
As the hours and days that followed the marathon passed, the people of Boston were glued to their television screens and Torrey was no different. He followed the news coverage attentively, even admitting to staying up until four in the morning just to keep himself informed. He began to tell the story of his experience and he did so through his song.
Torrey has been playing guitar since the sixth grade and he has been involved in music ever since. From the beginning he followed in his father’s footsteps. Emerson Torrey, a former guitarist with the popular Rhode Island band from the early 1980s, the Schemers, is now a music producer.
“I think the first song I ever wrote was the summer going into my junior year,” Torrey said, as he talked about his experience with music in high school.
He wrote songs that reflected his songwriting influences like John Mayer, Jason Mraz and Jeff Buckley, mostly about girls and breakups. As he went into his senior year, he was writing even more songs and he began to make a name for himself.
“So over senior year I wrote a lot of songs and the summer before I went to college I thought I should do something with these,” he said.
With the help of his father, he created an extended play five-song album that appears on iTunes Spotify, although he doesn’t openly brag about it. He was in a band too, Don’t Blame Jack, that played at Lupo’s in Providence.
As he began to apply for colleges, he always knew that the wanted to be at Berklee, although he decided to go to Belmont in Nashville, Tennessee, for a semester first. Belmont had a selective guitar program, which he realized was a bit more specified than he wanted, and he soon found his way to Berklee in Boston where he spent his first semester last spring.
“The thing about Berklee is that it’s all music classes,” he said, which he seemed to really enjoy.
Torrey appears to be truly passionate about his music and Berklee seems to be helping him along the way. He has yet to declare a major, though he has a zeal for songwriting and would ultimately like to be a performing songwriter someday. “I know I want to do music, I’m just not sure what area I want to go into yet,” he said.
Since the marathon, Torrey has watched the repercussions that have followed. The song, he said, is his attempt at putting the focus back on the victims.
“I want it to make people think and reflect,” he said. “I basically wanted people, as they were listening, to put themselves in the shoes of the victims of the bombing and think, ‘What did they do different from us and why did they die that day? Why am I alive? What did I do? What did they do? What kept me safe and what put them in harm’s way?’”
Torrey is hoping the song serves another purpose too. “It’s also to help victims heal. It lets them know that everyone is thinking about them and their struggle coping with the events,” he said.
Torrey wants to use his song to make his experience known and to shine the light back on the victims. He will continue to spend his last few weeks of summer hanging in his dad’s studio, but in the midst of it all, the lyrics of “What About the Others” will be playing over and over in his head, continuing to remind him of everything he witnessed.If you want to watch Jake Torrey sing “What About the Others,” you’ll find it here.